Skepticism

Elon Musk is Reopening a Tesla Factory During a Pandemic Because “Freedom”

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Transcript:

Let’s talk about rights and freedom. Here in America, we are super into freedom, so long as it’s “our” freedom and not “someone else’s” freedom. As I mentioned in my rant last week, people want to hold on to their “right” to bodily autonomy when it comes to not wearing a mask around TJ Maxx even while they don’t necessarily support a woman’s right to bodily autonomy when it comes to an unwanted parasite growing in her uterus. That fertilized (and even unfertilized) egg has a “right” to use someone’s body to become a baby, but your parents don’t have the right to get groceries without catching a deadly virus from some Karen with an unstated “condition” that requires her to walk around without any facial protection.

Into this high-level galaxy-brain philosophical tete-a-tete strolls Elon Musk, founder of Tesla. Oh wait, did I say “founder?” He didn’t actually found it — that was Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, who founded it Tesla Motors in 2003. Musk joined in 2004 as an early investor, but when Eberhard sued Musk for ousting him and renegging on his resignation deal, Musk and Tesla countersued until Eberhard settled, the result of which is that legally, Elon Musk is allowed to call himself a founder of the company. So that’s a normal thing that normal people do. Cool.

So anyway, Elon Musk, “founder” of Tesla, has vehemently argued that the current COVID-19 shelter-in-place order, which encourages people to stay home if they can and wear masks and avoid contact with others when they can’t, is a violation of our “freedom.” Elon is an icon to so many wannabe iconoclasts in the Joe Rogan-vein, as I learned the last time I gently poked fun at him on Twitter and got several extremely angry replies from random people who weren’t following me, so I know I’m just asking for more heat in my mentions but man, fuck that guy. For the past month or so he’s been spreading absolute conservative nonsense, all of which I’ve already covered in previous videos, like the lie that doctors are ascribing all deaths to COVID-19 whether it was the actual cause or not, and that sheltering in place is actually bad for people and if we all just go outside the virus will magically disappear.

Why would he say this? Is it because he’s extremely stupid? That’s always an option in the year of our lord 2020, when Donald Trump is our president. After all, “never ascribe to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence.” It is very possible to be very stupid and still come the CEO and backdated founder of a multi-million dollar corporation or two when you start by getting born into a white South African family that owns an actual emerald mine.

So yes, I do think Elon Musk is stupid in a lot of different ways. However, in this case I don’t think ascribing this to incompetence gives Musk enough credit for being an utterly shitty human being. Musk is currently worth $36.5 billion dollars.The only way you can have that much money is to be a bad human being. I’m sorry but it’s true. Bill Gates does a lot of great charitable giving but it’s not enough, and he did bad, terrible, no-good things to end up with $107 billion. Like Clippy, just to name one. And you know, building a monopoly by using underhanded tactics to drive out all the competition, to name another.

So no human needs 107, or 37, or 7 billion dollars, but the ones who do end up with those amounts are self-selecting to be particularly ruthless, and to be most concerned with getting even more billions of dollars that they will never, ever need in a hundred lifetimes. Which is why I can’t believe it’s a coincidence that Elon Musk happens to be pushing lies about coronavirus that make it more likely that people will support him opening up the Tesla plant before shelter in place is over, which will make it more likely that the company will reach a stock benchmark that will result in Elon Musk getting another $725 million.

A few weeks back I Tweeted that “The big mistake in Idiocracy was suggesting it would be uneducated poor people that would destroy the world, as opposed to educated rich people who exploit and murder the uneducated poor people.” As an example I pointed to Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who (as I mentioned in a previous video) tried to shut down abortion clinics while opening up other businesses without requiring masks. Abbott was caught on tape admitting that he knew reopening the state would lead directly to more deaths via COVID-19, but he wanted to do it anyway. In Idiocracy, farmers feed the Gatorade-stand-in “Brawndo” to their crops instead of water because they’re idiots. In our Idiocratic reality, people like Abbott and Elon Musk KNOW that Brawndo isn’t “what plants crave” but they are telling people it is because they own stock in Brawndo. It’s not idiocy, it’s psychopathy. It’s not ignorance, it’s a desire for money and power that supersedes concern for human lives.

Of course, the hordes of people who blindly trust Abbott because of the (R) after his name and who blindly trust Musk because he’s rich or because he smoked a blunt on Joe Rogan that one time are idiots, but hey, that’s the fault of the same rich and powerful people who set up a society and an educational system that failed them. I mean, a decade ago the Texas State Board of Education printed science books that warned students that evolution is “just a theory” that should be “challenged” with “alternate theories” like creationism. It was only three years ago that they removed that language. Is it any wonder that the kids who grew up in that system are now so lacking in critical thinking skills that they reject the germ theory of disease and insist on charging into their local Whataburger without a mask and calling it “freedom”?

So yeah, Elon Musk is yet another rich asshole who is profiting off the spread of misinformation about COVID-19, and it’s not enough that he is endangering the lives of people who believe his idiotic Tweets — he’s also opening his Tesla plant here in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is going to pressure local employees to have to decide whether to risk their lives or their careers, a choice that absolutely no one should be forced to make. Musk claims that any employee who feels unsafe can stay home, but this is the same guy who a judge ruled illegally sabotaged employees who were trying to unionize, and who is well-known around the office for his random “rage firings.” Are you, a low-level factory worker, really going to trust that this billionaire is going to hold your job for you until the authorities determine it’s safe to return to work?

I’ll also mention briefly that Musk claims that the state of California gave Tesla permission to open but “an unelected (Alameda) county official illegally overrode” the decision. That is a lie. California is a large state, so there are statewide safety suggestions but legally counties are encouraged to override those with stricter standards, because COVID-19’s progression varies in different parts of the state. So here in the Bay Area, officials are being stricter about openings, which is their legal right. And arguing that the public health department official who made the call is “unelected” is beyond misleading.

So he opened his plant illegally, risking the lives of his employees and their families. In response, Alameda County agreed to strike a deal with him to allow the plant to continue operating. As a reminder, back in January the Alameda County sheriff’s department sent twelve men in fatigues with machine guns and a battering ram (which they used to knock down an unlocked door) to evict several black mothers and their children who had moved into an unlocked vacant house in Oakland. The armed men threw all the families’ belongings into the street. This eviction cost the county about $40,000.

This is why it’s so important to understand economic and racial injustice — it’s there in the background of every major issue facing us today. A homeless black family takes shelter in an unlocked vacant house? Grab the AR15s. A white billionaire risks thousands of lives to increase his stock portfolio? Let’s make a deal! That’s freedom, baby.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor.

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One Comment

  1. I do not envy you the impending comments from weird nerds defending Musk. That said, you might want to amend the article. The difference between 36.5 and 37 billion dollars is 500 million, not 5 billion. Not that it makes that level of wealth any less disgusting; I won’t ever see a fraction of 50 million, much less 500.

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